Skip to main content

Full text of "The Concord saunterer"

See other formats



October 1963 Vol 3 No 3 


Our big autumn events are a lecture on 
Saturday, October 26th by Frederick T% 
McGill, Jr., professor of English and associ- 
ate dean of the Rutgers College of Arts and 
Sciences in Newark, New Jersey, followed on 
Sunday the 27th, by a groundbreaking for the 
Walden house replica, to be built behind the 

Professor McGill f s talk, entitled "The 
Cabin and the Pad", will relate the Newness 
in Concord of the 1840s to certain radical 
youth movements of the 1960s. It will take 
Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott and 
Channing and see how they developed in their 
relationships with the Establishment of 
their day. 

Those of us who know Fred McGill will 
know that this discussion will be witty and 
informative and will neither slight nor exag 
gerate the problems which the youth of today 
see as confronting them. His ability to 

- 2 - 
present the people he is considering as 
real men and women is highly regarded. 
Some of us in Concord , I am told, 
know Fred McGill from his Harvard days in 
the late 1920s when he was puzzling with 
the character of Thoreau's friend William 
Slier y Charming II, whose failure to gather 
his forces by a Walden-like experience in- 
trigued Fred McGill. His book, Changing of 
Concord , was published by Rutgers only last 
year. Others of us have come to know Fred 
McGill and his wife Ginny at the Isles of 
Shoals where they have been active since the 
late 1920s, and since 1951 associate manager, 
host and hostess for the Star Island Con- 
ferences where Unitarians, Congregational! sts 
and others continue a tradition of lyceum- 
like discussions on problems of ethics, 
science, religion, national and international 
affairs. While Tftoreau never visited the 
Isles of Shoals, its start as a cultural 
resort was prompted by his Harvard friends - 
Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Levi Lincoln 
Thaxter, the latter marrying Celia Laighton, 
whose father chose to run the lighthouse 
and withdraw from mainland affairs. 

Details on Fred McGill 1 s lecture: 

October 26th, Saturday d:00 PM 

The place .... Alcott School (Directions: 
Going West from Concord Center, bear left 
at the Library, turn left again and follow 
to the end of the street). 

Admission. Enrolled students $1 

Others $1.50 
Please order tickets by contacting the 
Lyceum (Phone 369-5912) 

Details on the Walden house replica ground- 
breaking: At the Lyceum, Sunday, October 
27th, 3:30. The program will be brief. 
Tea and sherry at 4:30 

. 3 - 
Every now and then one or two college 
students stop by the Lyceum, sometimes like 
stormy petrels . We are learning to think 
beyond the length or brevity of their hair 
(musing in passing of £merson f s "long-haired 
men and short-haired women"), and find that 
some have interesting projects, often well 
developed . 

One recent arrival, Robert Fleming, is 
interested in the social assimilation of the 
Irish immigrants in Concord in the 19th and 
20th centuries - from the time of the pass- 
word "NINA" (no Irish need apply), to the 
present. Thanks to Thomas McGrath, we were 
able to furnish him with this quotation from 
the Concord 1&60 Town Report: 

"Births, whole no. 43, being 5 less than 
in 1#59* Males 2g; females 15. Of these 
only 14 were born of Irish parents, being 
less than one third of the whole. Last year 
one half were of Irish parents, so that 
America will have cause to be hopeful." 

Bronson Alcott, in his school reports, 
admired the "quick-witted Green islanders". 

Another arrival, by motorcycle, was 
Richard Lee Fulgham, a personable young man 
interested in writing, taking part of his 
education in traveling. He*s an English 
major at Golumbus College, and writes about 
Thoreau, Whitman, the Chattahoochee River for 
the Columbus Georgia Ledger -Enquirer. 

Tom Blanding, at Marlboro College is 
doing a thesis ©n Thoreau involving the manu- 
scripts of the journal. He is earning money 
on the side playing trumpet in a jazz band, 
with possibly a few New England Conservatory 
overtones. Perhaps we may have more news of 
him in a subsequent issue. 

Some of us may think the use of the word 
"pad" in the present sense is new; it is in 
fact the same as that of Shake speare f s immortal 

"It matters not how good you are or even 

yet how bad you are, 

Welcome to my Padua..." 

- 4 - 

August Derleth f s hundredth published 
book was Concord Rebel: A Life of Henry 
David Thoreau * We learn that his Walden 
Ponds Homage to Thoreau is due from the 
Finders early in November* This tells 
of three pilgrimages to Concord from his home 
in Sauk City near Madison, Wisconsin* It 
will be an attractively handset, hand-printed 
volume, a limited edition, illustrated by his 
neighbor, Frank Utpatel* For Derleth, Sauk 
City is his Walden West, the scene of his 
Sac Prairie Saga, with novels, short stories 
and books like Village Year , V illage Daybook , 
Wisconsin SarthT drawn from his journal* He 
is completing a biography of Emerson, Concord 
Sage , for Macmillan* 

From a preview, we would say that 
Walden Pond will be an interesting collector's 
item ]T with some perceptive and amusing 
comments. Derleth has already had several 
books handset by Carroll Coleman of Prairie 
Press, and one of them was among the hundred 
best printed books of its year* The Lyceum 
has placed an initial order, and ours will 
be autographed by author and artist, at 
#3.50 plus 25^ handling. 


Ever since Thoreau* s fishing pun about 
the Senobites in Walden , we have not held 
back quite as much as we might ft»©m similar 
catch-phrases. At any rate, some of our 
friends were quite annoyed to hear that a 
chemical was put into Walden Pond recently 
to kill off the assorted fish prior to stock- 
ing the pond with game fish. The fish catch 
wasn f t particularly spectacular - no horn 
pout or pickerel were reported, though trout, 
small mouth bass, yellow perch, blue gills, 
punkin seed and smelts were. Walden is a 
two- story pond, not like the shallow pis- 
catoria which the monks used to cultivate 
and harvest • It is not clear that Walden can 

- 5 - 
or probably will support a really 
substantial game fish population, 
although three other two story ponds 
nearby - Jamaica Pond, Knopps Pond 
and Forest Lake - do give fishermen 
more than the excuse of a pleasant 
environment • 

On September 28th, Professor 
Edgarton was the leader of a group 
of ten or more electronics firms 
holding an outing with the Marine 
Technological Society to measure Wal- 
den Pond and to determine its source, 
using electronic gear rather than a 
plumb line through holes in the ice. 
They confirmed Thoreau f s depth figure 
of 102 feet, and that this lowest point 
was where a roiling underground spring 
did feed the pond. Professor Edgarton 
was wearing a rumpled business suit 
with a double string of guru beads 
around his neck* While he is a master 
showman, he did use the beads to keep 
count of depth-measuring devices while 
watching some of the other gear. 

Latest in the Rivers of America 
series is The Allagash , by Lew Dietz, 
published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 
at $7»50. A chapter deals with Henry 
Thoreau f s interest in Maine and the 
two rivers - the Allegash and the East 
Branch • Dietz expresses rather well 
the idea that within "the dark canopy 
of a mature conifer forest 11 life is 
quite sparse away from the river, and 
there are still wilderness elements 
there. Few Indians inhabited this 
region, except those traveling by 
river. This north-flowing river was - 
eventually tapped of its timber, to 
be diverted from Canada by dams and 
sluices to Bangor. 

- 6 - 


Several colleagues who are better 
naturalists have agreed with me in their 
shared enjoyment of the late 19th century- 
writer, William Hamilton Gibson. The two 
books of his which I like best are Sharp 
Syes and Eye Spy . ! The former is subtitled 
"A Rambler 1 s calendar of fifty-two weeks among 
insects, birds, and flowers, w and was pub- 
lished by Harpers in 1$92 with illustrations 
by the author. He got his start as an illus- 
trator, in fact, in the style of the very 
attractive first American greeting cards by 
Prang, or by Homer *s contemporary, Harry 
Fenn f and Gibson f s early work appeared in 
Appleton f s Magazine and for Bryant f s ornate 
Picturesque America . 

Gibson was a self-taught naturalist, 
whatever that means, certainly it does not 
reflect on the care which he gave to the 
interesting topics concerning these minor 
forms of life. He was concerned with the 
growth and shapes of the kaleidoscopic life 
we encounter in our fields, meadows, over- 
grown backlots, woods and brooks, - the 
witch-hazel f s mechanism for ejecting its 
seeds; butterflies that appear in winter 
thaws; fox-fire, the phosphorescence or 
will o f the wisp which more recently has 
been linked to UFO s; mushroom spore-prints, 
curious cocoons, caddis-larva, tendrils... 

Most important of all, he is interesting 
to read. His other books include Pastoral 
pays; Highways and Byways ; Strolls by Star- 
light^ and SunsKine ; Our Edible Toadstools 
and Mushrooms ; MyJStudio Neighbors ; Bloisom 
Hosts and Insect Guests ; and OurTjfative 
Orchids . A biography, by John Coleman Adams, 
describes this Connecticut Yankee, who was 
born in I85O and died in 1$96, having a 
lifespan about as long as Thoreau f s. None 
of his books are in print at this writing. 

- 7 - 

Two similar books, but less compulsively 
interesting are A.J* Grout f s Mosses with a 
Hand-Lens and D f Arcy Thompson y s On Growth and 
Form , discussing the engineering rules which 
seem to have supported surviving life-forms 
thoughout animate creation* Both these books 
are available as reprints, the latter in an 
abridged form - giving it in turn a greater 
chance of survival... 


Whether or not you can stop by at the 
Lyceum, we are inclined to tell you about our 
next exhibit, which should be up by late Oc- 
tober* It will show the graphic art of Win- 
slow Homer, with a few reprints of the paint- 
ings, a few of which do have equivalents as 
prints, or woodcuts, but since we don*t own 
any of the originals, must make do with copies. 

Homer was like Thoreau in several re- 
spects - a bachelor, he had the care of his 
infirm father. Even more, he had an eye for 
the country and the countryman, the country 
boy, the world of wildness - in Homer f s case, 
it was the ocean at Prout f s Neck, Maine, the 
Adirondacks, the New England country scene#.. 
Homer was born in 1336 and died in 1910. After 
an apprenticeship to a lithographer, he served 
as artist war-correspondent for Harper f s Weekly. 
Like Thoreau, he was rather wary of impositions; 
more so in his case perhaps since he was more 
successful in financial terms - coming at a 
later date when more wealth was lavished on 
the arts - but both men were of , the neat 
bachelor variety. Homer drank; Thoreau didn f t. 
No one seems to know quite how or why Homer 
avoided matrimony - in spite of bachelor 
Henry James f s remarks about Homer f s corn-fed 
women, he gave them a fair place in his art, 
and no more. 

- g - 
Now, About Money. •• 

There are two paramount factors to the Lyceum 1 s 
growth which will not permit equivocation. These 
are time and money. 

Time is of importance - or perhaps timing 
is - in that those of us who do the presenting 
find subjects of continuing interest to you 
who are helping by being interested, by purchases 
or contributions, or renewing the nominal annual 

Money is important only as we are able to 
find valid applications for it; if we cannot, it 
is a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal... 

Thus, we owe you our imaginations, and 
we ask you that you share in interests by 
writing, by buying our wares. 

A professor from Texas expressed her in- 
terest in helping us to buy the Texas house. 
We are trying to make this a reality, and hope 
to tell her soon how we propose to do it. Leo- 
nard Kleinfeld hopes that we may have a 
Sacrifice Auction to sell a chosen rare book 
(perhaps a fatted calf, or at least "the old 
red rooster* ) as something of Thoreau interest 
to help out on the cost of the Walden house 
replica. Demand for good Thoreau material runs 
way ahead of supply, so that every time we turn 
around we pay more for an out of print item than 
we just sold our last copy for. 

Speaking of our friends, the board of 
trustees has just asked Miss Margaret Lothrop, 
Messrs. Frederick McGill and Benjamin Grone- 
wold to join our Honorary Trustees, and Mrs. 
Frank McClintock to join the working trustee 
group. •. We hope they can comply. 

THE THOREAU LYCEUM, 43 Belknap Street, Coacord, 
Massachusetts, 01742. Tel.: 617-369-5912. Non- 
profit & tax exempt. Annual dues: Member, $3. 
Friend of the Lyceum, $10; Contributing 
Member $25; Life Member $100.